HARTLEPOOL United were beaten for the second time in a week on home soil after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham Town.
Chances were few and far between in the first half at Victoria Park, although Jack Barmby did look the most likely to open the scoring with three attempts on goal.
The winner came in the 74th minute courtesy of Jermaine McGlashan’s close-range effort and despite a late period of pressure from Pools they were unable to get back on level terms.
Defeat leaves Pools in 13th place in Sky Bet League Two, 10 points off the top seven and nine off the bottom two with just six matches of the season remaining.
Gaffer Colin Cooper made two changes with Jonathan Franks returning for the injured Marlon Harewood (ankle) while Simon Walton was back from a one-match suspension in place of Jordan Richards.
Michael Duckworth returned to his regular right-back role after starting the 4-2 defeat to Mansfield Town on Tuesday night on the right-hand side of midfield.
Pools lined-up in a diamond 4-4-2 formation, with Walton in the holding position, Brad Walker wide right and Jack Compton on the left with on-loan Manchester United forward Jack Barmby in the hole behind the front pairing of Luke James and Franks.
Neither of the two Sunderland loan signings, Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver, who signed on Thursday before the emergency loan window closed were in today’s squad.
Cooper’s side started the match far better than they finished Tuesday night’s 4-2 defeat to Mansfield.
There was some nice interchanges of play, with Walker at the heart of the action early on.
And it was the 17-year-old who had the first effort on goal. Compton had done well down the right wing to send over a deep cross and the ball eventually fell to Walker.
He toe poked it towards goal from six-yards but Scott Brown got down well to make the save and the ball was cleared.
In the 14th minute, it was Barmby’s turn to test the away keeper after good work from Duckworth set up the chance but again Brown was equal to it.
Cheltenham’s first chance, if you could even call it that, came in the 18th minute, but Billy Daniels’ shot was a good five yards wide of Scott Flinders’ left stick.
Walker was keeping things ticking nicely in the centre of midfield for Pools, while Barmby looked the most likely to open the scoring.
In the 23rd minute the on-loan Manchester United player had his best effort, a low, crisp shot from the edge of the area but Brown dived to his left and palmed the ball away.
Flinders was called into making his first save in the 32nd minute, Mitch Brundle pushing up fron the right-back position, before cutting inside and shooting from distance into the hands of Flinders.
Pools had started the match well but the intensity had gone out of their game as the half wore on with clear chances few and far between.
Barmby was then booked for an overzealous challenge on Sam Deering in the 38th minute, with both sides struggling to break the deadlock.
Mark Yates’ side then produced the most well-worked move of the match, Deering chipping a ball over the Pools defence onto the onrushing Jermaine McGlashan but Flinders was quick off his line to save the flicked effort.
Barmby then again tested Brown but his effort was straight down the keeper’s throat as the sides went into the break level.
Half Time: Pools 0 Cheltenham 0
The match burst into life in the 48th minute, Cheltenham’s Daniels hitting the post with a long-distance shot from outside of the penalty area.
Flinders was at full stretch but could only watch as it cannoned off his right-hand post.
Three minutes later Holden forced Brown into a low save and the rebound fell to James but the 15-goal top scorer couldn’t take advantage and his effort was high over the bar.
Cooper made an early change from the subs bench, James Poole coming on for Barmby, who threatened a few times with shots but didn’t do enough out of possession.
There was appeals from the Town End for a handball from David Noble inside the penalty area on the hour mark, but none of the players appealed and referee Andy Haines was unmoved.
In the 63rd minute Compton headed wide from a floated Franks cross from just six-yards when it looked easier to score, after impressive initial build-up play from James.
A Matt Richards free-kick was straight into the grateful hands of Flinders before Franks had a glorious chance up the other end to put Pools in front.
Compton took advantage of an upfield pass, cut inside and layed the ball off to the onrushing Franks who hit it well enough but Michael Ihiekwe blocked the shot from 12-yards.
Pools were then hit with a sucker-punch in the 74th minute.
Cheltenham’s Jermaine McGlashan sneaked in at the far post to evade both Sam Collins and Darren Holden to slide in a Sido Jombati deep cross past the hapless Flinders.
The goal came from nothing really and was a hammer-blow to Pools with just over 15 minutes left to play.
Cooper made his second sub with just over 10 minutes to go, Walker replaced by Lewis Hawkins on the right-side of midfield.
Compton again bombed forward down the left-flank and played the ball inside to substitute Poole but his bundled effort was just wide of the post.
Greg Rutherford then entered the fray in the 84th minute, on for Franks to partner James up front.
Pools’ afternoon was summed up with just a few minutes to go when a goal-bound Christian Burgess effort was blocked by the head of Luke James, leaving the teenager dazed on the floor.
Cooper’s side had created enough chances to at least take a point but couldn’t take advantage as Cheltenham ran out 1-0 winners.
Full Time: Pools 0 Cheltenham 1
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Burgess, Holden, Walton, Walker (Hawkins, 82), Compton, Barmby (Poole, 58), Franks (Rutherford, 84), James.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Richards, Jones, Rowbotham.
Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): S Brown, T Brown, Deering, Harrison (Gornell, 90), McGlashan, Richards, Jombati, Noble (Taylor, 87), Ihiekwe, Brundle, Daniels.
Subs Not Used: Cureton, Roberts, Kotwica, Vincent, Braham-Barrett.
Goal: McGlashan, 74
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear)
Attendance: 3,328 (104 Cheltenham)